Qatari authorities have failed to provide redress for hundreds of migrant workers at two companies who have not been paid their wages for months, even after being informed of these abuses, Human Rights Watch said.
On September 28, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Qatari authorities informing them that at least 400 employees at Imperial Trading and Construction Company (ITCC), which describes itself as one of Qatar’s leading contractors, have faced over 10 months of unpaid wages.
In response to the letter, the Government Communications Office said that “the company has been placed on the Labour Ministry’s list of banned companies, legal proceedings against the company have been launched, and strict penalties have been imposed on the company.”
However, the workers, many of whom report living and working in desperate conditions, have still not received the wages they are owed.
“It is disheartening that hundreds of workers in at least two companies are struggling to obtain their unpaid wages even though the Qatari government has been made aware of these abuses over and over again,” said Maham Javaid, Middle East fellow at Human Rights Watch.
“The Qatari government’s failure to ensure that workers are paid underlines the disappointing gap between Qatar’s promises of reform and the reality.”
The Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund, established in 2018 specifically to ensure that workers are paid their wages when companies fail to pay, has not been utilized to benefit these struggling workers in the two companies Human Rights Watch said.
Workers at Lalibela Cleaning & Services, an agency that supplies domestic and office cleaners in Qatar, are also facing unpaid wages and other labour abuses. Eight Lalibela employees told Human Rights Watch that they have not received monthly wages since June.
Human Rights Watch contacted both companies for comments but neither company responded.
Workers at Lalibela Cleaning & Services have said that they have been unable to file a labour complaint of unpaid wages through the dispute resolution mechanism because their employer did not issue their Qatari ID Cards.
Such workers will also not be able to benefit from Qatar’s Wage Support and Insurance Fund, which can only pay workers’ wages if the employer cannot pay after a court ruling against the company.
Lalibela workers also said that not having the ID cards limited their freedom of movement as they fear being arrested.
Qatar recently made significant changes to its kafala system, but it did not abolish the system, leaving workers still tied to employers, who retain control over the workers’ legal status. Employers are required to issue and renew work and residency permits and issue ID cards but can cancel a worker’s residency at any time.
“Qatari authorities repeatedly say that wage-related abuses should be reported to them immediately so they can investigate and expedite compensation for workers facing these painful wage abuses,” Javaid said.
“But the sheer number of these unpaid wage cases show that Qatar has yet to fully protect and compensate workers for wage abuses”. (Source: HRW)